Personal Selling

All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust." - Bob Burg.

Personal Selling Personal Selling

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Table of contents

    The primary goal of any business is to generate sales and increase its profitability. The question is how it could achieve higher sales. The answer lies in building strong relationships with customers. Human psychology reveals that we engage in business and financial transactions with people we trust. This concept is effectively utilized through personal selling. In this article, we will discuss the importance of personal selling and its critical concepts.

    Personal Selling Definition

    When you hear the phrase personal selling, a picture of a pushy salesman might come to mind. It is not your fault, as salespeople are subjected to several negative stereotypes. Some think a salesperson could go to any length to complete a sale. Others think they only care about their benefits in terms of commissions and bonuses. These stereotypes about personal selling and the conduct of salespeople could not be more inaccurate.

    Personal selling means establishing direct contact with existing and potential customers through a sales team. Its aim is not just to engage and convince customers to buy a product/service but also to build strong relationships with them.

    Personal selling adds a personal touch to the sales process. The salesforce is usually well educated and trained to handle customers' queries and resolve their problems. They assess customers' needs and fulfill them by coordinating the company's efforts. The success of personal selling depends on the sales team's ability to forge strong and sustainable customer relationships.

    Salespeople must also possess strong interpersonal skills and prioritize customers' needs above all else. These are key to building customer trust and eventually leading to a sale.

    Personal selling Adds a personal touch to sales StudySmarterFig. 1 - Personal selling - adds a personal touch to sales

    Personal Selling Advantages and Disadvantages

    There are some advantages and disadvantages when implementing a personal selling strategy.

    Personal selling advantages

    First, let's talk about its plus points. Here are five main advantages of personal selling:

    • Bilateral communication – Personal selling is two-way communication. The salesman and the customer have to talk and discuss every aspect of the product or service before completing the sale.

    • Customer's trust – When communicating with customers, a salesperson can foster the trust factor between them. The key is to listen to the concerns or queries of the customers and provide them with information that would help put those concerns to rest. By the end of this process, a salesperson will likely win over the customers' trust.

    • Personalized solutions – Salespeople could assess the needs of individual customers and provide them with unique deals or solutions. This can contribute to a more positive experience.

    • Higher flexibility – Salesmen control the flow of communication in personal selling. Therefore, they can be flexible in their approach and change the marketing message accordingly. It offers them more control and improves their chances of making a successful sale.

    • Instant feedback – Customers can provide instant feedback to the salesman in personal selling. They can inform the sales team about their experiences using the product/service and any issues they might have encountered during the process. It eventually helps the company to improve its sales activities.

    Personal selling disadvantages

    That said, personal selling is not without its disadvantages. Here are some challenges when implementing personal selling:

    • Training costs – Having a well-trained sales team comes with its costs. Companies spend huge amounts of money on training their sales teams. Training equipment, travel expenses, and health care benefits are some costs associated with training a sales team.

    • No quick results – Training the sales team to implement the sales strategy could take a lot of time. There are no shortcuts to getting quick results. It is a process that needs time to provide the results the company desires.

    • Negative image – As mentioned earlier, there are many negative stereotypes regarding the image of salespeople. Some customers avoid personal selling because they do not want to face a pushy and aggressive salesman breathing on their necks to complete the sale.

    • High turnover – The employee turnover rate is high in personal selling. Salespeople tend to change companies quickly, chasing better pay and commissions. It disrupts the sales activities of companies as they would need to hire and train new salespeople.

    Direct Marketing vs. Personal Selling

    Direct marketing and personal selling are both techniques to sell products or services to customers. However, both techniques differ in terms of audience reach, costs, and objectives (See Table 1).

    Direct marketing is a type of marketing where a company communicates directly with the customers to sell its product/services.

    Direct marketing Personal selling
    To sell products/services and to inform customers directly. To sell products/services and to inform customers through the sales team.
    It is used to sell less complex products/services. It is used to sell complex products/services.
    It has a massive reach. It has a limited reach.
    It allows less personalization. It allows more personalization.
    It is a more aggressive form of sales technique. It is not an aggressive form of sales technique.
    The focus is on informing the customers about a good offerThe focus is on developing strong customer relationships.
    Text messages campaigns and database marketing are examples of direct marketing. A salesman selling a product is an example of personal selling.

    Table 1. Direct marketing vs. Personal selling

    Types of Personal Selling

    There are three main types of personal selling. Companies could use one or all of them based on sales activities. It is decided in the sales strategy what type of personal selling is ideal for improving sales performance:

    • Order creator – In this type of personal selling, the task of salespeople is to create orders. They give customers information about products and services and try to create needs for those products/services. They do not sell products themselves but initiate a process that eventually leads to sales.

    • Order getter – In this type of personal selling, companies employ the services of frontline salespeople to bring in new customers. salesmen'sen's job is to convince the customers and assist them in making a purchase.

    • Order taker – This type of personal selling involves handling requests and queries. Customers contact the salespeople and inform them about their needs or problems. The salespeople give them information about the products/services that could fulfill their needs or solve their problems. The main task is to take orders from the customers.

    Personal Selling Examples

    There are many examples of personal selling in our daily lives. From a departmental store employee to street vendors, we see the use of personal selling in marketing and sales. Here are a couple of examples of personal selling:

    Personal selling example: The sales rep in tech stores

    The sales representatives in tech stores help customers in making purchase decisions. They listen to queries, provide information, and assist customers. They ask customers questions about their price range and desired specifications, and suggest a product that fulfills their requirements.

    Personal selling Sales reps in tech store StudySmarterFig. 2 - Sales reps and customers in an Apple store

    Personal selling example: Door-to-door sales

    One of the common examples of personal selling is door-to-door sales. The salespeople knock on the doors of potential customers to advertise and sell the products/services. They try to convince the customers to buy from them with their strong interpersonal skills. In many cases, they give free product demos to eliminate customers' doubts.

    Personal selling door-to-door example StudySmarterFig. 3 - Door-to-door salesmen

    Personal Selling - Key takeaways

    • Personal selling is about adding a personal touch to the sales.
    • The success of personal selling depends on the salesperson's ability to forge strong and sustainable customer relationships.
    • Direct marketing and personal selling methods differ in reach, costs, and objectives.
    • Bilateral communication is one of the top advantages of personal selling.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Personal Selling

    What is personal selling in marketing? 

    Personal selling means establishing direct contact with existing and potential customers through a sales team. Its aim is not just to engage and convince customers to buy a product/service but also to build strong relationships with them.  

    Why are b2b sales based on personal selling? 

    The b2b sales are based on personal selling because the company wants to forge strong relations with its clients. It understands the specific needs of clients and provides customised solutions. 

    How does personal selling add value? 

    Personal selling adds value by establishing a relationship with the customers based on trust. Salesmen listen to their problems and provide meaningful solutions. 

    What advantages does personal selling offer over advertising? 

    Two-way communication, personalised solutions, and higher flexibility are some of the advantages that personal selling offer over advertising. 

    What are the characteristics of personal selling? 

    Relationship development, solution-driven approach, interpersonal skills, and prioritizing customer needs are the characteristics of personal selling. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What is the stereotype related to personal selling/ salesmen? 

    Salesmen assess the needs of customers and fulfill those needs by coordinating the company’s efforts. 

    The success of personal selling depends on the sales team’s ability to forge strong and sustainable _______.

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